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December 22, 2021, Adrian, Michigan – While many people looked forward to 2021 and an end to the chaos brought about in 2020, this year has seen more than its fair share of chaos and challenges: from the continuing struggles with the pandemic and insurrection at the U.S. Capitol early in the year to the fall and struggles of Afghanistan and increasing violence and division. Still, 2021 was also marked by bright spots as people throughout the world struggled to bring goodness to the world.
The Adrian Dominican Sisters also faced a challenging year. Here are the top 10 themes of the Sisters and Associates for the past year, as chosen by the Communications Department.
The Adrian Dominican Sisters and Associates addressed racism and worked toward diversity and inclusion in a number of ways throughout the year. During Lent, they underwent a study and reflection on Reckoning with Racism, the a study of racism in the Congregation’s history. The Adrian Dominican Sisters were among several congregations of women religious to conduct an audit of their past racist practices – in response to a challenge at a Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) gathering. Sister Elise García, focused on racism in her LCWR Presidential Address and led the LCWR officers in a ritual of asking forgiveness for racist practices.
Barry University opened the Arthur Lee McDuffie Center for Racial Justice to provide a safe space for dialogue on racial issues, to promote unity, and to allow for frank confrontation of the history of racial terror. CommonSpirit Health – the health system that includes Dominican Hospital in Santa Cruz and St. Rose Dominican Hospitals in Henderson and Las Vegas – collaborated with Morehouse School of Medicine to train more Black physicians.
Vaccines were the top of everyone’s mind at the beginning of the year. Volunteer physicians and nurses from Dominican Hospital in Santa Cruz gave the COVID-19 vaccine to local agriculture workers and teachers. Three nursing students at Siena Heights University gained practical experience and served the local community when they administered the Moderna vaccine during a clinic at the Lenawee County Fair Grounds. Centro Latino of Shelbyville, a rural Kentucky center directed by Sister Patricia Reno, OP, offered vaccine clinics to the people it serves.
In other news, Sister Nancy Murray, OP, worked with Catholic Extension to procure grants for Sisters working on the front lines with people in need. Sister Donna Markham, OP, PhD, delivered the Presidential Address to professionals, volunteers, and partners of Catholic Charities USA on the various ways they responded to the needs of the people during the pandemic.
Even with challenges brought about by the pandemic, the Adrian Dominican Congregation moved forward with efforts to make the Motherhouse Campus more sustainable. Co-workers in Facilities and Grounds and the Office of Sustainability oversaw projects including the restoration of the storm water retention pond; installation of a solar array in the north field; and the construction of a carport in the Regina parking lot, including solar panels and charging stations for electric vehicles. Power generated by the solar array and the solar panels on the carport will account for about a quarter of the annual power usage at the Motherhouse Campus.
The Permaculture Area hired 20 guest workers – goats from the local Munchers on Hooves – to graze in designated areas, ridding the site of invasive species of plants helping to manage the landscape.
The Congregation continued to be part of the dialogue about mitigating the impacts of climate change. Sister Janet Stankowski, OP, served on a panel of Catholic leaders who engaged in a dialogue with U.S. Representative Haley Stevens (D-Mich.) during a webinar on climate action.
The Adrian Dominican Sisters’ General Council issued a variety of statements in response to events that affected the lives of others, especially those who are marginalized. In their statements, they called for the removal of President Trump from office after the January 6 insurrection, an end to violence against Asian-Americans, and an end to deportation flights for Haitians seeking refuge at the U.S.-Mexico border. They also wrote in support of the elevation of Archbishop Wilton Gregory of Washington, D.C., to Cardinal and for a treaty on the prohibition of nuclear weapons.
The General Council also signed onto letters issued by other organizations or coalitions. These included a letter with leaders of Michigan communities of Sisters calling for the removal of Ron Weiser as Chair of the Republican Party because of demeaning and threatening remarks he made about the top three women in the Michigan government; an interfaith letter to President Biden, calling on him to restore access to Affordable Care Act benefits to DACA residents, those who had come as children to the United States with their families; and a statement issued by the Leadership Conference of Women Religious expressing concern over the insurrection.
Associates – men and women who feel called to the Dominican Charism, or spirit, and who make a non-vowed commitment to the Adrian Dominican Congregation – remained active and engaged throughout the year. They began to gather through weekly Zoom sessions to discuss the Dominican Charism; read, study, and discuss books together; and share reflections on the Gospel for the upcoming week. Zoom meetings also brought Adrian Dominican Associates together with Associates from other U.S. congregations of Dominican Sisters. Associate Life also began planning for the future by forming a 2030 Envisioning Committee, through the help of Elizabeth Keith, consultant for the newly established Office of Dominican Charism.
The number of Associates also continued to grow. The following new Associates were welcomed during virtual Rituals of Acceptance: Kathy Almaney, March 2021, and Mary Jo Alexander, Laura Boor, Megan Meloche, Melinda Mullen, and Sheila Wathen, August 2021.
Advocacy for immigrants and for a just U.S. immigration policy has always been a major focus for the Adrian Dominican Sisters. Sister Attracta Kelly, OP, an immigration attorney and director of the Congregation’s Office of Immigration Assistance, works with immigrants who are seeking citizenship, residency, or protection from possible deportation. The Office of Peace, Justice, and Integrity of Creation offers numerous opportunities to advocate on behalf of refugees and immigrants.
This year, many Sisters have continued to be actively involved in volunteering to help immigrants. Sister Donna Markham, OP, PhD, as President and CEO of Catholic Charities USA, visited Catholic Charities agencies serving at the U.S.-Mexico border. Adrian Dominican Sisters Katherine Frazier, OP, Mary Jane Lubinski, OP, Nancy Murray, OP, and Mary Soher, OP, volunteered at shelters for immigrants at the border. Through live stream and Zoom, concerned people throughout the country have the opportunity to participate in the weekly Friday morning Rosary at Broadview Detention Center in Chicago, praying for immigrants who face deportation that day. The sessions are held at 7:15 a.m. Central Time.
The past year also gave Adrian Dominican Sister the opportunity to stroll through history. Congregation launched its fourth history book, Seeds of Change, covering the years of renewal from 1962 to 1986. The book launch gave the author – Sister Mary Lou Putrow, OP – and others involved in the writing and production of the book the opportunity to reflect on these pivotal years of history, which many Sisters have lived through.
Sisters Teresita Ruiz, OP, and Margarita Ruiz, OP, celebrated the role of their father, Humberto Ruiz Castillo, in the history of their native country, the Dominican Republic. The Catholic chapel at the Palacio Nacional – designed by their father, an architect – was renovated and dedicated.
Congregation Archivist Lisa Schell was elected as Vice President and President-Elect of Archivists for Congregations of Women Religious and hosted the virtual Dominican Archivists Summit.
Habitat for Humanity of Lenawee County blessed a house built through Faith Build, funded in part by a grant from the Congregation’s Ministry Trust Fund. The Sisters of the Our Lady of Remedies Mission Chapter in Pampanga, the Philippines, continued their Christmas 2020 gift-giving to the poor in January 2021. They were involved in the distribution of 1,600 “bags of blessing” to families identified by Caritas Kalookan, in the Diocese of Kalookan. Sisters Carol Weber, OP, and Judy Blake, CSJ, were recognized for their years of service to the people on the north end of Flint, Michigan through St. Luke’s N.E.W. Life Center.
Catholic Charities USA and the Felician Sisters teamed up to start the Francis Fund for Eviction Prevention. Sister Donna Markham, OP, PhD, President and CEO of Catholic Charities USA, at the invitation of President Biden, attended the signing of the Infrastructure and Jobs Act on the White House lawn.
Siena Heights University’s annual food drive for a local food pantry was more successful than expected this year. Barry University took several steps to address hunger: opening a food pantry to provide for students who would otherwise experience food insecurity and organizing volunteers to prepare more than 40,000 food packs for the people of Haiti.
In response to the 2016 Resilient Communities Enactment, the Leadership Council approved an investment in collaboration with Mercy Housing Northwest: “The Power of Home: Affordable Housing as a Platform for Education Equity and Community Resilience.” The program offers comprehensive after-school programs at eight of Mercy Housing Northwest’s properties to help children succeed in school and in life.
Sister Corinne Florek was named Godmother of Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) in recognition of her decades of service in economic justice and community investment. Through the years, Sister Corinne helped to shape the practice of community development, in which the Adrian Dominican Sisters and other religious congregations invest in or make low-income loans to nonprofit organizations that serve the needs of local communities and people with low incomes.
Faith-based shareholders worked with three fossil fuel companies to develop clean energy. Sister Judy Byron, OP, representing the Adrian Dominican Sisters, was the primary filer – with 14 other faith-based organizations as co-filers – of shareholder resolution that Smith & Wesson adopt a comprehensive human rights policy in light of rising gun violence in the United States.
Both Sisters Corinne and Judy are consultants for the Adrian Dominican Sisters’ Portfolio Advisory Board.
August 23, 2021, Adrian, Michigan – Adrian Dominican Sister Elise García, OP, President of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), opened the organization’s August 11-13, 2021, annual assembly – held virtually this year – with a presidential address that outlined the history of racism in the United States and noted the complicity in racism of the Catholic Church, as well as among women religious.
“We, as Americans, have cheated ourselves of the full truth of our history, ignoring or eliding the painful stories that inextricably interweave and form the full fabric of our lives as African Americans, Native Americans, Asian Americans, Euro Americans, and Latinx Americans,” Sister Elise said in her Presidential Address, Creating Space for the Future: Cutting Deeper Grooves of Transforming Love into Evolution.
The issues of systemic racism and white privilege became especially clear in May 2020 with the murder of George Floyd and the killing of other African Americans by white police officers.
Sister Elise challenged the women religious to do the work of identifying racism and white supremacy, “acting to dismantle them in our personal lives, institutes, Conference, and ministries.” She encouraged all Christians to follow Jesus and to take on the way of the cross, a “giving over of oneself to the radical love and solidarity that Jesus lived, extending ourselves as kin to all who are marginalized, excluded, disinherited.”
Finally, Sister Else spoke of the inspiration of African American slaves, whose mysticism and faith were described by Dr. Shawn Copeland in her book, Knowing Christ Crucified: The Witness of African American Spiritual Experience. “Dr. Copeland has gleaned insights into what she calls the ‘dark and hidden wisdom’ of the enslaved by drawing on their narratives, their stories, and their spirituals.”
Sister Elise’s address was followed by a ritual asking forgiveness for the way in which women religious participated in racism and white privilege. Sister Elise was joined by Sisters Jane Herb, IHM, President-elect; Jayne Helmlinger, CSJ, Past President; and Carol Zinn, SSJ, Executive Director.
During the prayer, each woman formally delivered an apology. “Before God and all who have been grievously harmed through the generations by our complicity as women religious in the enslavement of children, women and men, I – on behalf of our Conference and members – acknowledge these sinful acts by our congregations, offer a profound apology, and pray for forgiveness.”
Read Dan Stockman’s article about the opening of the LCWR Assembly in the National Catholic Reporter’s Global Sisters Report.
Feature photo: Sisters Elise García, OP, left, President of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) and Jane Herb, IHM, President-elect, take part in a ritual marking the sorrow of women religious for their complicity in racism.